What you need to know:
- Viviane Owino and Christine Thendi are among 50 women who have received free phone and computer repair training in Nairobi.
- Ms Owino is a trained project manager and when her contract expired at a Nairobi-based software development company, she had no other option of raising income.
- Ms Thendi joined the business last September after losing a front office job at a dental clinic in Meru town.
We find Viviane Owino sitting inside a laptop and phone repair workshop at Nairobi's central business district. She is draped in a blue coat and on her left hand, is a smartphone without a back cover.
She is inspecting the motherboard. Moments later, she begins to undo the tiny bolts using a screwdriver. She wants to establish the damage on the phone before repairing it.
For close to two years, Ms Owino has made a living from repairing phones and laptops, a job that has predominantly been done by men.
With just one repair, she is sure of pocketing between Sh2,000 and Sh10,000
“It is a well-paying job. In some instances, you can be paid Sh10,000, Sh5,000 or Sh2,000 for repairing one laptop in a day. It all depends on the kind of damage,” says Ms Owino who takes care of her mother and younger sister.
Ms Owino is a trained project manager. When her contract expired at a Nairobi-based software development company in 2019, she had no other option of raising income.
Luckily, she landed on a Facebook post making an appeal to girls to enrol for a three-month software and hardware engineering course.
She joined in November 2019, and by January the following year, she had already started making money.
“I have always had an interest in repairing laptops and phones. When I saw this opportunity, I knew this was the time for me to learn the skills,” says Ms Owino who lives with her family in Nairobi’s Kayole estate.
“Covid-19 has taught us you cannot survive without skills. I have no idea where I could be or how my mother and sister would be surviving had I not gained these skills,” she adds.
In this workshop run by an NGO, Franky’s Foundation, are piles of damaged laptops awaiting repair.
Ms Owino is one of the three trainers at the foundation, training other women while gaining advanced repair skills.
“I learn every day. Clients bring different models of phones and laptops and that requires a new skill to be able to repair them. The more you learn, the more you raise your earning power,” she says.
Ms Christine Thendi is her student.
Ms Thendi joined last September after losing a front office job at a dental clinic in Meru town, Meru County.
She moved in with her grandmother in Nairobi as she tried to figure out her next career move. Her granny’s phone screen got broken and her attempts to replace it were futile.
A friend referred the granny to Franky’s workshop where it was repaired. She was happy. The fact that it was a woman who repaired her phone made her very proud.
With that excitement, she desired to have granddaughter learn the skills too. She requested the founder to enrol her.
Ms Thendi joined seven other trainees, after submitting her applications and going through the screening to establish her interest in the skill.
“I have gained a lot that I did not know a woman can do in ICT; bearing in mind that this is a male-dominated industry,” she says.
“In my fourth month, I could successfully work on a software, motherboard and hard disk, and replace the phone and laptop screens,” she says.
Ms Thendi has opted to extend her training at the facility to gain advanced skills to enable her make more money. In future, she says, she could open her own gadget repair shop.
She also gets a 20 per cent commission from the repairs. In a month, she can repair up to 10 gadgets earning her more than Sh10,000.
Ms Owino and Ms Thendi are among the 50 women who have received the free three-month ICT training since the foundation was started 21 months ago.
The founder, Mr Franklin Ojiambo, says for one to be accepted into the course, she has to be assessed to establish her passion and interest.
Most of their beneficiaries, he says, are vulnerable women and girls from low-income areas namely Kayole, Kibra, Kikuyu, Mathare and Majengo.
“We are open to school dropouts since our aim is to equip them with skills that can earn them a living,” he says.
The workshop can only accommodate eight trainees at any given time.
Out of the 50 trained so far, eight have started their own phone and laptop repair shops, while five got job placements, he says.
“Women are keen on details, attentive, obedient and willing to learn,” says Mr Ojiambo who had to leave his computer hardware engineer job to start the organisation.
His only wish is that more well-wishers could donate damaged gadgets for training as well as seek their repair services to enable the foundation raise money to cover the training costs.
For now the foundation relies on income raised from laptop and phone repairs to cover training costs and utility bills.
Mr Ojiambo says they are scouting for partners to enable them to stabilise their services and train more women.
Although these kinds of initiatives continue to raise the numbers of girls taking up science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers, those formally enrolling for the respective courses are still low.
For instance, the 2019/2020 placement results by the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS), show that out of the 57,687 students who enrolled for STEM courses in the year, only 37 per cent were female.